First Published: Spartacist Canada No 22, Dec-Jan 1977-1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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VANCOUVER – On October 21 and 22, an In Struggle (IS)-led “coalition of Marxist-Leninists” sponsored a conference here “On the International Situation.” Meant to be a coffee klatch discussion of the “three worlds” theory of Mao, the conference became instead a three-way debate between the confused left-leaning Maoists of In Struggle, the right-Maoist Red Star Collective (RSC) and the revolutionaries of the Trotskyist League (TL). Repeatedly stung by the interventions of TL supporters, and unable to answer the political questions they raised, IS and its friends tried to gag and exclude their Trotskyist opponents. However, Stalinist methods did not allow In Struggle supporters to ignore the fundamental contradictions facing their organization.
Ever since the purge of the “gang of four,” the return to power of Teng Hsiao-ping in China and the falling out between Peking and Albania, the eclectic Maoists of In Struggle have been set adrift. Unwilling or unable to choose sides in the various bureaucratic dogfights, IS has become something of a pariah for other Canadian “Marxist-Leninists.” It has effectively lost the Peking “franchise” to the bootlicking sycophants of the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) (CCL[M-L ), while Hardial Bains’ bizarre Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) (CPC[M-L]) has claimed tiny Albania as its “glorious socialist fatherland.”
IS’s dilemma is excruciating. It is attempting to maintain its connections with Maoism while turning a blind eye to the recent Chinese power struggle and to Peking’s outright alliance with U. S. imperialism against the Soviet Union. IS members are indisputably troubled by Peking’s support to the CIA/South African invasion of Angola; its approval of the massive Iranian arms build-up; and especially its campaigns for increasing the armed might of the imperialists’ NATO alliance. By rejecting Mao’s “three worlds” theory – the “theoretical” justification for supporting NATO and despots like the Shah and Chile’s Pinochet – IS has sought to maintain some “revolutionary” credentials. But in so doing it has run afoul of orthodox Maoism, thus heightening the contradictions between its leftist-posturing and its Stalinist political heritage.
IS today attempts to pass itself off as a supporter of intransigent class struggle throughout the world. In a presentation to the conference, an In Struggle spokesman declared that the main enemy of the proletariat of Europe is the European bourgeoisie. Yet as every reader of Peking Review knows, for the Chinese Communist Party the main enemy of the European proletariat is not the capitalist class, but the “dark social fascist” Soviet Union.
The RSC was quick to point out that Mao himself had stridently denied IS’s claim that class opposition to all imperialist forces is key to revolutionary Marxism: “We are different from Trotsky... It is a conclusion drawn only by the Trotskyists that we must fight against all imperialists” (Mao Tse-tung, quoted in John Gittings, The World and China, 1937). Faithfully parroting the line of its Peking mentors, the RSC underlined the necessity of building NATO and lavished praise on the “progressive” French imperialists for their military support to Mobuto, the CIA’s man in Zaire, in the battle against “Soviet social-imperialism.”
But In Struggle plunged deeper into the fray by denouncing the “class collaboration” of the European Communist Parties at the time of World War II: “Certain proletarian parties united with their ’own’ bourgeoisies in ’defense of the fatherland.’ These opportunist parties betrayed the class interests... ” According to IS the “united front against fascism,” as elaborated at the Communist International’s Seventh Congress in 1935, was not meant to include bourgeois forces. But once again the RSC brought In Struggle back to reality, rightly charging IS with rewriting history and with ignoring the fact that the “united fronts” did, and were meant to, include the bourgeoisie.
IS cannot point to one word of criticism of the European CP’s policies by Stalin or any other Comintern leader, thus belying its ludicrous claim that Stalin and Co. were opposed to the activities of the French, Spanish and Italian parties. In fact, the alliances with bourgeois forces were effected on the orders of the Comintern. To quote Dimitrov, chief spokesman on the question at the Seventh Congress:
Under certain conditions we can and must bend our efforts to the task of drawing these parties and organizations [bourgeois parties] or certain sections of them to the side of the anti-fascist people’s front, despite their bourgeois’leadership. Such, for instance, is today the situation in France with the Radical Party...– Report to the Seventh Comintern Congress, 1935
By claiming that socialist revolution was not on the agenda and that the independent interests of the working class should be subordinated to the defense of “democratic” imperialism against fascism, the Stalinists tied the working class hand and foot to the class enemy through the people’s front. The bloody victory of Franco in Spain and the defeat of proletarian upsurges and stabilization of new capitalist regimes in France, Italy and Greece after WWII were the bitter fruits of popular frontism.
Following presentations by the various Maoist groups the conference broke down into two discussion workshops. While the assembled Maoists tried unsuccessfully to generate polite discussion on the “three worlds” theory, TL supporters intervened to underline the deep contradictions between In Struggle’s line and true Maoism/Stalinism. One TLer commented that In Struggle members were upset with the RSC’s social chauvinism, and said that they want to draw the class line. “But the RSC was right to quote Mao at you – only Trotskyism fights for a class line.”
But the RSC’s open advocacy of alliance with the imperialist bourgeoisie – especially against the Soviet degenerated workers state – did not trouble In Struggle nearly as much as the TL’s defense of revolutionary Marxism. Following TL interventions in both workshops, designated IS hacks launched into sustained polemics against Trotskyism. When the TL attempted to respond, IS and RSC members threatened goon violence and exclusionism, and passed gag rules to prevent further Trotskyist interventions. As a TL supporter put it: “In Struggle is more than willing to debate with people they themselves label social-chauvinist, but they are unable to withstand free and open debate with Trotskyists.”
Throughout the two-day conference, In Struggle steadfastly maintained a stony silence on the recent events in China. Challenged time and again by the IS members could only retort that “this is a conference of Canadian Marxist-Leninists. We are not trying to decide what’s right for China.” IS is indeed incapable of deciding anything for the international working class.
During the past two years. In Struggle has enjoyed rapid growth and has extended its influence both in Quebec and across English Canada. During this period it has recruited many subjectively revolutionary militants – repelled by the open social-chauvinism of groups like CCL(M-L) and the RSC, the crazed cultism of CPC(M-L), and the pro-NDP, pro-Quebec-nationalist cretinism of the fake-Trotskyist United Secretariat supporters (today the Revolutionary Workers League/Ligue Ouvriere Revolutionnaire). But despite its left posturing, In Struggle has been completely incapable of outlining a revolutionary program, because it is trapped within the framework of Stalinist class-collaborationism and betrayal.
In Struggle stands today at the crossroads, and it has no viable direction ahead. As we wrote in SC last October:
In Struggle’s future is not bright – for a Stalinist must have his ’country’ to survive or suffer the fate of the nationally parochialist Canadian Party of Labor.. Edged out of the running for the Peking and Albanian franchises, In Struggle is heading down the road to political oblivion – to becoming an eclectic, isolated Stalinoid sect.”
At the conference a TL supporter offered the only perspective which can lead would-be revolutionists in In Struggle out of the quagmire: “If you want to draw the class line you must break with Maoism and Stalinism. You must learn the lessons of China’s call for a stronger NATO. You must learn the lessons of Iran, Angola and the closing of the Chinese embassy [to Chilean militants seeking asylum from the murderous Pinochet coup]. You must learn the lessons of the return of Teng, Stalin’s popular frontism, and the class character of the USSR and China. Only Trotskyism fights for a class line, against all imperialists, against all the capitalists.”